Grudge Match Teaches Forgiveness

Review of Grudge Match, Directed by Peter Segal

Can you believe it? After thirty years, Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro) are back for a final round to settle once and for all who’s the champ. After two fights at the height of their careers, the scorecard read 1-to-1. But in 1983, before they entered the ring for a final tie-breaking match, Razor announced his retirement from boxing, thus ending both their careers. But now, in their old age, they are back to settle the rivalry.

Grudge Match is undoubtedly a crowd pleaser. It has everything: comedy, action, drama, and romance. The film has actual laugh-out-loud moments. The boxing action gets intense. The drama encapsulated between Kid and his son is heartwarming. The romance between Razor and his former girlfriend gives hope that there is always room for second chances. I don’t want to oversell this movie. A better way to put it is Grudge Match is a lot better than expected.

Razor and Kid are initially brought together to make a video game. Razor needed extra cash since he was laid off at the local factory, whereas Kid is just gunning to redeem his loss, the last time they boxed. A brawl between them at the video game studio leads to an offer of more money for an actual match. With the two back in each other’s lives, past mistakes come back to haunt them.

This a story about old people past their prime. In a culture that celebrates youth and beauty, it’s nice watching a film that lifts up the older generation as still able to accomplish great things. It’s tempting to imbibe this idolatry of youth and see old age as the loss of dynamism and the onset of an set trajectory that can never change. Moses was about 80 years old when God called him to return to Egypt (contrary to what Prince of Egypt would have us think), well past the “age of usefulness.”

Grudge Match has its fair share of dirty humor, playing to the grumpy-old-man stereotypes, but offers a lot more than Stand Up Guys (2012). Grudge Match, more than being all about a grudge between Razor and Kid, is really a tale of second chances. Razor gets another chance with his girl. Razor’s old trainer (Alan Arkin) wasting away in assisted living get another chance to work. Kid meets his son and tries to be the father he never was.

Without Grudge Match into something too serious, the movie is a story of redemption. The grudge held between the two cannot be solved by pummeling each other in the ring, but rather finding freedom in forgiveness, even if it took thirty years to find it.

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